Everyday Christmas

At this time of year, I often feel a bit frantic inside when the Christmas decorations are seen in stores before December. There is a desperation that denies the true meaning of the season as shops are full of enticing products pushing people to buy and spend. Ah, the art of consumer marketing and the expectation it brings to adults and children around the world. Frankly, it puts me in a bad mood! People seem more frantic and less kind. Families argue. Children throw more tantrums and going to a shop can be a nightmare! I avoid the shops and stay home and live in the moment and anticipate the things I’d like to do all year. I rebel against the overspending and debt that once was a pattern for us in this family and choose a different path. I talk to my kids about how material things are not what I want  and I really do mean it! The things that I do want, can’t be bought in a store. I want for our family to “get” the meaning not just today, but every day, including those in our extended family. I want humanity to stop hurting the planet and to start really thinking about what they can do individually and collectively to make this world a better place to be. I want to forgive and be forgiven for the past.  I want for people not to go hungry all around the world. I want for animals not to suffer for human greed.  I think about how I can have a beautiful holiday here in Australia this year by truly being in the present moment and without distraction.   I will be spending my days with koalas and those who care for them and I will give my smile to them and a word of kindness to show them they are appreciated every day! Why can’t everyday be Christmas in our hearts and why can’t each day be a gift to the world??  Do we need to overbuy, and over-indulge to have a happy holiday? I really don’t think so.

OK. I’m guilty. I admit it. I used to be right in it and when the kids were little, I spent days decorating, preparing and planning and I often became over-tired and cranky and snapped at everyone around me! Was that in the Christmas spirit? No. Well, Christmas morning would come and then poof, it was gone and there were mountains of waste and clean-up and everyone was overfed and yet still unsatisfied. Does anyone else have memories like this??  My guess is yes, and perhaps as recent as last year or those feelings are beginning to surface now as the season is upon us.

Since we have been in Australia, Christmas has been really strange and has had me re-evaluating the true meaning of the season. I just haven’t felt that “magic” and I have felt down during the season. This year, though, I feel different as though something has shifted. I can’t fix all the problems of the world, but I can do my best to just be happy and I am. A friend played a bit of a game in the volunteer room at the Wildlife Hospital on Sunday as a bit of fun for us all. With many changes taking place, she still found the spirit to give us all a bit of a laugh and a smile!  We played a trivia game and I learned the meanings of the words I so often saw but paid little attention to. All the enclosures for the koalas are named and thus we were asked what these names meant. “Warina” means to give and here means give a place to rest. “Allambee” means a quiet resting place. “Sui” was the name of Steve Irwin’s beloved dog and this enclosure holds very special sick koalas. “Kiah” means from the beautiful place. “Burrenbong” comes from the word meaning “no drink” and is where the name koala came from! Thus all the names have a special meaning that is a key to my beloved friend, the koala. Thanks for the education Leisa! It has taken me a few years here and although it will never be the same as in the northern hemisphere, I value the people here that I have met and who inspire me as many selflessly give for these amazing animals.   This year, Josh will return from the States and we will create an Aussie memory just by being together as a close family. It will likely be the last one together before Josh moves to the city and enters University which is a new beginning for us all and I try to hold no expectation as to how the day will be. It just will be.

The moments that I remember most satisfying in the past all revolve around that warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment.  I ponder now and it was not the gifts received, but the act of kindness behind them, that mattered. To me, the magic came from the cold crisp nights sitting around a roaring fire and singing Christmas Carols. I still smile when I hear those songs and they stick in my head even in this heat! I remember the winter night strolls with icicles hanging from the rooftops and white lights sparkling as I try to imagine being “cool”. I remember the quiet of the night and the peace as we lit the candles. I will light them this year as well and imagine. The ornaments on the tree had special meanings too and each year my mum would buy a new one or we would create one. I remember the smiles on my kids faces and also the times when their eyes just lit up with anticipation. Togetherness and the joy of each others company was what mattered. When Jackie Gram died, I think that took a bit of my Christmas Spirit away but it is slowly coming back. England brought new memories and new traditions. Australia brings more and these are yet to come. I am grateful for each moment each day and the random acts of kindness that others show me, help me see that it is this that matters most and not just on a holiday morning but all year round. I have found my birth mother, Pat and got to know my grandmother, Edna, before she died. Stories emerge and brew. As the sun sets in the summer sky and the sultry air brings floral fragrance, my garden grows in a summer Christmas. My heart is here as well as there, where the bitter cold brings warmth by the fire. May the fire be in our hearts this year across the world, as we all share in a new future with bright horizons. May they be simple and meaningful. Blessings to friends near and far!


Morning Animal Antics and Nightly New Insects

There is never a dull moment in my house with the new and exciting adventures that occur nearly on a daily basis. Whether a new and exciting bug, a creepy arachnid or a small green tree snake, after 3 years in Australia, I am continually fascinated with the wildlife that greets me night and day. Sometimes that wildlife is also my own domestic animals and the interaction between the two worlds makes life very interesting.

Two nights ago I was lying in bed browsing new and interesting articles and connecting with friends through facebook. I lay there and suddenly a loud buzzing startled me and there was a great deal of commotion in my bedside lantern. A flying winged creature dropped down and hung from the lampshade and I quickly took a photo! Hmm. Haven’t see that one before. Then it dropped down to the bedside table and didn’t move again. Bug suicide! Tragic but true! Within minutes, another buzzing and humming caught my attention and a tiny green bug walked behind my head and sat there reading over my shoulder perhaps. I took his photo too. I got sleepy and turned off the light. The buzzing continued as I drifted off to sleep.

It was 430am and wide awake I was, so I had a walk around the house, pet the cats and then lay down next to Sarah who was sleeping quietly as dawn lulled me back to sleep. It wasn’t for long though because soon the chickens were clucking loudly. I assumed they wanted out and as Sarah stirred, I asked her to go and let them out of the coop for their free-ranging day. It was earlier than their usual 6am wake up call but so be it, she let them out. Normally this leads to a quiet time in bed slowly waking to the day and the sounds of lorikeets and parrots and kookaburras rising and creating a crescendo of lyrical bird symphony. It is my favorite alarm clock.  Not today though. Today was different and our eldest chicken, “Cotton Top”, clucked to her hearts content very loudly and incessantly! I thought it was early to be laying an egg but attributed it to that and attempted to fall back asleep. She continued to cluck loudly as did her mate “Bobby”. Sarah again rose to go investigate and I stroked Angel (the cat) whilst she did. “Mum,” she called, “Midnight just came in from outside! No wonder the chickens are so loud!” Midnight is my other cat and neither of them are allowed outside so it was quite puzzling to find him out and quite a surprise to my frightened chickens! They were all huddled by their coop but no worse for wear. We went on a house search to find the open window and discovered the escape route in the lounge and closed it tightly. Naughty kitty! All was well and he slinked under the desk most likely even more frightened than the chickens as they are no longer tiny but bigger than him.

It was not the first time Midnight has had an experience with a bird in this house or out and I surmise it won’t be his last. Since we moved into this beautiful house  in Buderim, Queensland, nestled next to the bush, he has had quite a few interesting encounters. I attempt to do what is right and not let him out day or night. This is what is best for the eco-system in which we live in. I respect this and know that since cats are not native, it is my responsibility to keep wildlife safe by doing the right thing. After all, we don’t want Australia to mean “Cats and Cane Toads.” (more of this later) However, my plan is not full proof and occasionally, wildlife finds it ‘s way to us indoors and it creates quite a stir!

A few months ago, we had a pale headed rosella show up in our bedroom. We were just coming home from a theatre rehearsal and there he was perched boldly above my cats in the bedroom. He created quite a ruckus attmpting to fly out a closed window so we caught him and had him checked at the wildlife hospital and no harm done, he was released into the bush behind us. He now watches us from the trees. Not too long after this, a King Parrot showed up indoors and flew around and around while the cats sat below mesmerised. Josh did some interesting acrobatics to try and get him down from the rafters and then we were able to coax him out an open window in the loft. Beautiful and majestic he flew out and the cats sat stunned for some time before they realised he was gone!

Another interesting wake up call came the day that we encountered a snake in the pantry. Again it was “Midnight” who had him cornered and quite defensive as he struck rapidly at anything that moved before him. Unsure of his venomous nature because he was a juvenile, I called on a snake expert who informed us at 530am that he was just a juvenile tree snake. I was able to get the privelege of his release and hopefully he is growing big in the bush behind us.

Spiders are no stranger either but these I leave to my brave Rachel to catch. If I have to, I do but after nearly 50 years of arachnaphobia, it is not my strength to be the resccuer of these fascinating and necessary creepy crawlies that we live with.

I respect them all and know they all have a place in this “wild” tropical paradise we live in. My hope is that through respect and care, many generations will get to continue to experience the priveleges that I do, living in this ever crowded and diminishing wild world.

My kids value this as well and there is room for nature and humanity to live in balance. If I can cope with those massive spiders, then can’t we all do our part to appreciate and value the wild world we live in and stop the planet’s destruction? It may take some creativity but what better than that, a creative community to live in harmony with the wildness that is a very important part of it’s heritage.

My wild wake up call this morning was “Cookie” the dog,  but that in itself is another story.

Steve Irwin, the Ultimate Wildlife Warrior

Today is Steve Irwin Day in Australia. I took the girls to school and my little Wildlife Warrior Sarah truly wished to spend the day at Australia Zoo in honor of Steve and his legacy. I, on the other hand had other plans in mind for my day. It was not that I didn’t want to be there to support the day but Steve meant more than just the Zoo and his work there. His influence spread across the world in waves of Wild actions and Wild risks that he took to get up close and personal to the wildlife and to show it to everyone around the world. He WAS the crocodile hunter and he LIVED his message wide open for the world to see. His death was a great loss to his family, Australia and the World! For this reason, I chose a quieter and more reflective action to honor this day. I took my dogs to the beach and we walked the sands where he once surfed.

The beach we walk is the same one that I walk at least 3 times a week. Those who know me on facebook, have seen many photos of this beach in my 365 day project. A scattered few can be seen here in the morning either fishing, walking their dogs or personally walking in their own reflective space. We once lived in a house overlooking this same spot and therefore today’s reflective walking meditation brought me back to when we first arrived in Australia.

We were the crazy Yanks that picked up our lives in 2009 and once again, traveled the globe to live in new lands. Our 2nd day here, we showed up at Australia Zoo too late to meet Steve, but having just read Terri’s book, “My Steve” we were full of the stories and reflections of their lives. We had that book signed and were mere tourists on the block. Terri commented that I was beautiful and that she rarely met anyone dressed like that to come to the zoo. It was SO hot and therefore I frocked a royal blue summer-style dress that I didn’t think was that special but I remember how she looked directly into my eyes when she spoke and we shared a moment. I was still full of the stories in the book and I felt like she was an old friend. I said that I was sorry for her loss and that it must have been so difficult to write that book. Some would say I was naive. However, her response was “You have no idea!”I have seen her since but not shared that moment as she walks the grounds of the Wildlife Hospital where I volunteer.

On that day, all the rememberances and signed shirts and artwork lined the walkway behind the crocoseum. I was overcome with the emotion of it all and the huge hole that was left when Steve died. It was felt all around the world and at the time we were living in London! People evrywhere left flowers and written thoughts in honor of this single man, this legend in the history of Australia.

Since that day, I have come a long way and having always been a huge advocate for the animals, my passion has grown for an Australian species, the koala.

Right now in Australia, many species of native animals are under threat from the destruction and loss of habitat leading to fragmented populations unsustainable and pushing the tipping point. Our Great Barrier Reef is under threat as well, perhaps in peril of losing it’s World Heritage status. I attended the 3 Senate Inquiries around Australia regarding the Status, Health and Sustainability of the Australian koala and yet again after much evidence, our Environmental Minister has postponed a recommendation to list the koala as threatened Nationally. Evidence speaks for itself and destruction of habitat, fragmented and unsustainable populations, dog attacks, car hits and disease will one day, most likely be their demise. A simple listing could help preserve the species but this seems to be in conflict with the development, logging and mining industries and the bottom line is the dollar. If Steve were alive today, would he not be speaking out loudly? My guess is YES but he is gone. Terri stands up for conservation, as do her children. Is their voice heard around the World?  Steve’s father, Bob Irwin has stopped being politically correct and I applaud him in his conservaton efforts and messages recently published. I recently had the pleasure of meeting him at his property and his lovely wife Judy. They live the message in a simple abode surrounded by the wildlife they love.

Kudos Steve, for all you stand for and all that you did for the native wildlife of Australia.

As I raise my own children and can see them following in your footsteps to be passionate Wildlife Warriors as well, I give credit to you for your inspiration and sheer madness for the species that we all love. As I walked the beach today with my dogs, a beautiful Sea Eagle followed overhead scanning the sea grass and gliding peacefully. “What a beauty” was whispered to the sands and sea.

In your memory, I will do whatever it takes to continue your legacy to strive for a better future for our wildlife and our children. Blessings to you Terri, Bindi and Robert and to you Bob and Judy. You are all in my heart today.

Far Away

When our children are little, it is so hard to imagine the day that they will be leaving home and creating their own life, solo. Time flies and you travel along and one day you wake up and that day is there. They have their wings to fly!
I have to say that my journey with my eldest has been amazing thus far. Until a year ago he gave me little trouble and made mostly all the right decisions to guide his life. I so often glowed with an inner pride and felt my heart would burst. Since then, there have been stumbling blocks and disagreements between us and I have missed the times when we could just talk and share wisdom. I miss him now as he travels abroad. However, my heart still swells with the pride only a mother can feel. It also swells with angst and worry at times and I try to let that person inside me guide towards positive reflection so that I can stay balanced and centered.
Today, I helped my eldest daughter Rachel with her preparations for her future and it brought me back to a couple of years ago, when we first came to Australia. Josh, at that time, was so sure of his future and where he wanted to go, he knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and he went for it! Within months in a new country, he became school captain and his mission was to save the koala! He worked hard in his studies and achieved his International Baccalaureate and he was Young Volunteer of the Year. He was active in drama and he burned the candle at both ends (somewhat like his mother). This last year he has done the same but in a different light. He worked 2 jobs and saved for a gap year trip abroad. He broke away from “home” even though he still lived here, his priorities shifted and he grew and changed. He now travels and reflects and revisits his past to find his future. It is a great opportunity! I hope that all of his dreams come true and that he comes to know what direction is next on the compass point of his life right now. As he spreads his wings, may he always know that home is where the heart is!

Everyday Welcome from Australia


I am beginning a blog to discuss the issues that concern me and to share a bit of my world. Feel free to comment and become a part of the conversation!

Those of you who know me, know that I am passionate about family, healthy living, sustainability and conservation. My energy is focused on the koalas of SE Queensland, Australia and beyond as I have been working with these amazing marsupials since 2009.

EVERYTIME I say or do something, I want this word or action to speak the truth and be valuable to those I come in contact with.

I wake up every DAY and I think what can I do today to help make the world a better place to be. I greet my animals and my family and we begin our day.

FOREVER, let my work become an example to those around me. Let it inspire the children and their future. Let it serve the animals and the planet we live on together.